Equitation classes are a hybrid between hunters and jumpers. It is similar to jumpers in that riders often have to compete over jumper type courses, but it is more like hunters because it is also subjectively judged on the rider’s style. While the horse itself is not being judged, it can influence how the rider looks and is perceived by the judge.
The majority of equitation classes offered are for junior riders. Part of this stems from the fact that equitation is considered a good teaching tool in preparation for the upper level jumper divisions. It helps riders to learn to position themselves and ride correctly over difficult courses.
Equitation divisions at horse shows are very popular for junior and pony riders, aged 17 and under, as well as for amateur adult riders. Once upon a time, junior riders focused their energy on just the two major 3'6" medal classes: the USEF Medal and ASPCA Maclay. The Capital Challenge Horse Show was created in the early 1990s, opening a new venue for equitation offering 3'0" finals for children (National Children's Medal) and amateur riders (National Adult Medal).
Competing in equitation classes requires extensive training, dedication and practice with an equestrian professional. Many riders begin training in their youth, spending years in the saddle to gain the experience necessary to compete at one of the year-end finals. Some regional horse show associations even offer beginner medal classes.